15.S12 | Fall 2018 | Graduate

Blockchain and Money


SES # Topic Readings


Session 1 study questions

‘IMF World Bank Comment’ Gensler, The Banker (September 2018).

The blockchain catalyst for change’ Vox (July 16, 2018) 


Money, Ledgers & Bitcoin

Session 2 study questions

 ‘Conflict reigns over the history and origins of money’ Science News (July 29, 2018)

A Brief History of Money’ IEEE Spectrum (May 30, 2012)

What is Money? An Artist’s Make and Take’ Wall Street Journal video (November 11, 2014)

A Brief History of Ledgers’ LLFOURN, Medium (February 15, 2018)

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies, Preface — The Long Road to Bitcoin’ (PDF - 18MB) Clark (pages 3 – 21) (February 9, 2016)

Bitcoin P2P e-cash paper’ e-mail Nakamoto (October 31, 2008)


Blockchain Basics & Cryptography

Session 3 study questions

Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System’ (PDF) Nakamoto (October 31, 2008)

Blockchain Technology Overview’ (PDF) National Institute of Standards and Technology (January 2018)  (pages 9 – 23, sections 1 & 2)

Blockchain 101 — A Visual Demo’ Brownworth, MIT (November 5, 2016)


Blockchain Basics & Consensus

Session 4 study questions

21st Geneva Report on the World Economy - The Impact of Blockchain Technology on Finance: Catalyst for Change’ Chapter 1 (pages 1 – 7); Casey, Crane, Gensler, Johnson, and Narula  (July 2018)

 ‘Blockchain Technology Overview’ (PDF) National Institute of Standards and Technology (January 2018)  (pages 9 – 23, sections 1 & 2)

The Byzantine Generals Problem’ Lamport, Shostak, & Pease; ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems (TOPLAS), 4(3), (July 1982) (required 382-387)

A (Short) Guide to Blockchain Consensus Protocols’ CoinDesk (March 4, 2017)

Optional Reading:

For those wishing for a technical dive into Bitcoin Scripting Language, one can review ‘Script’     
by Bitcore or ‘The Best Step-by-Step Bitcoin Script Guide’ by Blockgeeks.


Blockchain Basics and Transactions, UTXO, and Script Code

Session 5 study questions

Bitcoin’s Academic Pedigree’ Narayanan and Clark (August 29, 2017)

Making Sense of Cryptoeconomics’ CoinDesk (August 19, 2017) 


Smart Contracts & DApps

Session 6 study questions

‘Smart Contracts: 12 Use Cases for Business & Beyond’ Chamber of Digital Commerce’ (December 2016)

State of the DApps: 5 Observations from Usage Data’ McCann, Medium (April 2018)

Ethereum Competitors: Guide to the Alternative Smart Contract Platforms’ Blockonomi (February 28, 2018)

Optional Readings:

Smart Contracts: Building Blocks for Digital Markets’ Szabo (1996)

A Next-Generation Smart Contract and Decentralized Application Platform’ Ethereum Whitepaper as maintained on Ethereum Wiki (2013, updated through August 21, 2018)

Blockchain Technology as a Regulatory Technology’ De Filippi & Hassan, Harvard (January 2018)


Technical Challenges

Session 7 study questions

21st Geneva Report on the World Economy -The Impact of Blockchain Technology on Finance: Catalyst for Change’ Chapter 2 -Blockchain technology’s opportunities and challenges (pages 9 –16)

On the Scalability of Blockchains ’The Control (March 23, 2018) 

Transactions Speeds: How Do Cryptocurrencies Stack Up To Visa or PayPal? ’HowMuch.net (January 10, 2018)

Layer 2 | the lightning network’ Digital Currency Initiative

Top 8 Privacy Coins’ Invest in Blockchain (April 16, 2018)

Optional Readings:

On sharding blockchains’ Ethereum Wiki (accessed August 20, 2018)

zkLedger: Privacy-Preserving Auditing for Distributed Ledgers’ Narula, Vasquez, & Virza (April 2018)

Public Policy

Session 8 study questions

Cryptocurrencies: Oversight of New Assets in the Digital Age’ (PDF) Gensler (July 18, 2018)

The Future of Money’ (PDF) Carney (March 2, 2018)

‘Nobel-winning economist: Authorities will bring down ‘hammer’ on bitcoin’ CNBC (July 9, 2018) 

Permissioned Systems

Session 9 study questions

Enterprises Building Blockchain Confront Early Tech Limitations’ CoinDesk (March 23, 2018)

Technical difference between Ethereum, Hyperledger fabric and R3 Corda’ Nandi, Medium (March 16, 2018)

What is Corda?’ Newton, Medium (June 5, 2018)

A Blockchain Platform for the Enterprise, Introduction’ Hyperledger Fabric (May 5, 2018)

What is Digital Asset? | Distributed Ledgers for Financial Institutions’ Coin Central (June 22, 2018)


Financial System Challenges & Opportunities

Session 10 study questions

Top financial services issues of 2018’ (PDF - 1.2MB) PwC Financial Services Institute (December 2017)

Sheila Bair on What Hasn’t Changed Since the Great Recession’ New York Magazine, Daily Intelligencer (August 9, 2018)

The Rise of Market Concentration and Rent Seeking in the Financial Sector’ (PDF) Zhang; Harvard (April 2017) (Required pages 2 –5, 24 –26)

Optional Reading:

Ten Years After the Crash, We Are Still Living in the World It Brutally Remade’ New York Magazine, Daily Intelligencer (August 2018) 


Blockchain Economics

Session 11 study questions

 ‘Why Bitcoin is and isn’t like the Internet’ Ito (January 23, 2015)

Some Simple Economics of the Blockchain’ Catalini and Glans (revised June 2018)

Transaction Costs and Tethers: Why I’m a Crypto Skeptic’ Krugman, New York Times (July 31, 2018)

Billionaire Bill Gates once got bitcoin as a birthday present — here’s what he did with it’ CNBC (May 8, 2018) 

‘Dr. Doom’ Economist Nouriel Roubini Bearish on Everything Crypto’ Forbes (August 25, 2018)

Optional Readings:

The Economic Limits of Bitcoin and the Blockchain.’ Budish, University of Chicago (June 5, 2018)

Valuing Bitcoin and Ethereum with Metcalfe’s Law’ Clearblocks, Medium (February 13, 2018)

The Meaning of Decentralization ‘Buterin, Medium (February 6, 2017)


Assessing Use Cases

Session 12 study questions

21st Geneva Report on the World Economy - The Impact of Blockchain Technology on Finance: Catalyst for Change’ Chapter 2 – A framework for understanding transaction costs and trade-offs (pages 14 –16); Chapter 3 - Blockchain technology and finance (pages 17–30) & Chapter 5 – Broader potential economic impact (pages 51 –55)

Blockchain beyond the hype: What is the strategic business value?’ McKinsey (June 2018)

A Letter to Jamie Dimon’ (PDF - 1.1MB) Chain (October 16, 2017)

The promise of the blockchain technology’ Economist (September 1, 2018)


Payments, Part 1

Session 13 study questions

The Federal Reserve Payments Study: 2017 Annual Supplement’ Federal Reserve

‘Global Payments Report’ Worldpay (November 2017)

The Best Mobile Payment Apps of 2018’ PC World (April 2, 2018)

Why China’s Payment Apps Give U.S. Bankers Nightmares’ Bloomberg (May 23, 2018)

‘M-PESA: how Kenya revolutionized mobile payments’ N26 Magazine (April 9, 2018)

Cross-border retail payments’ (PDF - 1.2MB) Bank of International Settlements Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (February 2018) (Required: page 6 –15, sections 2 -2.3.5 & Box B;and page 39, Annex 3)


Payments, Part 2

Session 14 study questions

How Blockchain Can Finally Fulfill Its Promise in Global Payments’  CoinDesk (June 9, 2018)

Extending the World of Payments to Blockchain’ (PDF - 4.4MB) ACI Worldwide (2017)

The Payment Industry is About to Be Struck by Lightning: Expert Take’ Coin Telegraph (March 21, 2018)

Why Stripe Gave Up on Bitcoin and Blockchain Payments’ Fortune (July 17, 2018)

How XRP Fits into Ripple’s Payments Products Explained’ CoinDesk (March 4, 2018)


Central Banks & Commercial Banking, Part 1

Session 15 study questions

‘Central bank digital currencies’ (PDF - 1.2MB) Bank for International Settlements, Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (March 2018)

The Future of Money: Digital Currency’ (PDF) Garratt (July 18, 2018)

‘Central Banks and digital currencies’ Broadbent (March 2, 2016)

A perspective on electronic alternatives to traditional currencies’ Camera (January 23, 2017)

Bitcoin is fiat money, too’ Economist (September 22, 2017)

Optional Reading:

Bitcoin, DLT and Bank Ledgers: A Central Banker’s View’ Qian, People’s Bank of Central; CoinDesk (June 19, 2018) 


Central Banks & Commercial Banking, Part 2

Session 16 study questions

The Riksbank e-krona project Action plan for 2018’ (PDF) Sveriges Riksbank (December 2017)

The World’s First Central Bank Electronic Money Has Come – And Gone: Ecuador, 2014-2018’ Alt-M (March 29, 2018)

Stable Coins Analysis: Is There A Viable Solution for The Future?’ Coin Telegraph (May 14, 2018)

PH Moving to Test Digital Fiat Currencies with RCBC’s ePiso’ (PDF - 6.5MB) Entrepreneur (June 14, 2018)

eCurrency Mint Limited and Banque Régionale De Marchés Launch New Digital Currency in Senegal’ Business Wire (November 4, 2016)

Optional Readings:

Guide to Stablecoin: Types of Stablecoins & Its Importance’ Master the Crypto (August 23, 2018)

Method and System for Linkage of Blockchain-based assets to fiat currency accounts’ Google Patents


Secondary Markets & Crypto-Exchanges

Session 17 study questions

Move deliberately, fix things: How Coinbase is building a cryptocurrency empire’ Washington Post (May 17, 2018)

Robinhood rolls out zero-fee crypto trading as it hits 4M users’ TechCrunch (February 22, 2018)

After Nasdaq CEO Blesses Cryptocurrency, Investors See Bigger Future for Bitcoin, Others’ Forbes (April 25, 2018)

Bitcoin Sees Wall Street Warm to Trading Virtual Currency’ New York Times (May7,2018)

Cryptocurrency Exchanges Are Getting Hacked Because It’s Easy’ Wall Street Journal (July 16, 2018)

The sad state of crypto custody’ TechCrunch( February 1, 2018)

Optional Reading:

‘Guide to Decentralized Exchanges: Comparison of Popular DEXs’ Master the Crypto (August 25, 2018)


A New Approach to Crypto-Exchanges & Payments

Session 18 study questions

Intercontinental Exchange Announces Bakkt, a Global Platform and Ecosystem for Digital Assets’ ICE (August 3, 2018)

The NYSE’s Owner Wants to Bring Bitcoin to Your 401(k). Are Crypto Credit Cards Next?’ Fortune (August 3, 2018)

Starbucks App Leads Mobile Payment Competitors’ eMarketer (May 22, 2018)


Primary Markets, ICOs, & Venture Capital, Part 1

Session 19 study questions

All-Time Cumulative ICO Funding’ CoinDesk (as of August 30, 2018)

‘Initial Coin Offerings and the Value of Crypto Tokens’ Catalini and Gans (June 25, 2018)

10 keys for evaluating Initial Coin Offering (ICO) investments’ Crypto Potato (April 26, 2018)

Nearly Half of 2017 Cryptocurrency ‘ICO’ Projects Have Already Died’ Forbes (February 25, 2018)

The Rise of the ICO, and What It Could Mean for Venture Capital’ Visual Capitalist (May 3, 2018)

How to Launch An ICO, A Detailed Guide’ Coin Telegraph’ (February 2018) (Note: this reading is presented to understand the state of the ICO market, circa early 2018 not as a set of recommendations.)

Optional Reading:

‘J. R. Willett: How I Invented the First ICO’ RadarZero (March 20, 2018) 


Primiary Markets, ICOs, & Venture Capital, Part 2

Session 20 study questions

Digital Asset Transactions: When Howey Met Gary (Plastic)’ Hinman, SEC (June 14, 2018)

Initial Coin Offerings: Can Regulators Curb the Risks? How Many ICOs Are Scams?’ ValueWalk (March 30, 2018)

ICO Quality: Development & Trading’ Dowlat & Hodapp, Satis Group (March 21, 2018)

Hundreds of Bitcoin Wannabes Show Hallmarks of Fraud’ Wall Street Journal (May 17, 2018)


Post Trade Clearing, Settlement, & Processing

Session 21 study questions

Blockchain could save investment banks up to $12 billion a year: Accenture’ Reuters (January 17, 2017)

ISDA Publishes Digital Iteration of the Common Domain Model’ ISDA (June 5, 2018)

ASX’s Proposed Distributed Ledger and the Future of Clearing and Settlement’ Leung, Medium (May 21, 2018)

Optional Reading:

Distributed ledger technology in payments, clearing, and settlement’ (PDF) Mills, et al; Federal Reserve Finance and Economics Discussion Series (2016-095) 


Trade Finance & Supply Chain

Session 22 study questions

Hong Kong, Singapore to link up trade finance blockchain platforms’ Reuters (October 25, 2017)

Barclays says conducts first blockchain-based trade-finance deal’ Reuters (September 7, 2016)

Business Interest in Blockchain Picks Up While Cryptocurrency Causes Conniptions’ Wall Street Journal (February 6, 2018)

De Beers turns to blockchain to guarantee diamond purity’ Reuters (January 16, 2018)


Digital ID

Session 23 study questions

‘Self-sovereign identity: Why blockchain?’ IBM (June 13, 2018)

Blockchain and Digital Identity –A Good Fit?’ Olshansky & Wilson, Internet Society (March 13, 2018)

Can blockchain ease banks’ digital-identity concerns?’ American Banker (March 27, 2018)

Blockchains and Digital Identity’ Toward Data Science (March 10, 2018)

Singapore Regulator, Banks Complete KYC Blockchain Prototype’ CCN (October 4, 2017)

Digital Diploma Debuts at MIT’ MIT News (October 17, 2017)  



Session 24 study questions

No readings

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2018
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Written Assignments